Backyard cricket

Backyard cricket
Example of beach cricket being played at Cottesloe Beach in Perth. The bowler bowls to batsman, while the rest field.

Backyard cricket, street cricket, beach cricket, gully cricket, corridor cricket, deef (Hindi: गली, galli = "alley") or garden cricket is an informal ad hoc variant of the game of cricket, played by people of both sexes and all ages in gardens, back yards, on the street, in parks, carparks, beaches or any deef arena not specifically intended for the purpose



Whilst loosely based upon the game of cricket, many aspects are improvised: the playing ground, the rules, the teams, and the equipment. Quite often there are no teams at all; the players take turns at batting and there is often no emphasis on actually scoring runs. The bat can be anything, as long as it can hit the ball and can be suitably held in the hands. However, usage of a bat is necessary. A ball is the other essential item. Tennis balls are often used due to the fact that they are less likely to inflict injuries than a cricket ball. They are also much cheaper and more readily available than a leather cricket ball and are easier to hit due to their slower air-speed and relative lightness. Tennis balls also bounce more than normal cricket balls, especially at low speeds. The pitch can be any stretch of ground that is reasonably flat. The wicket may be any convenient object - a chair, a cardboard box, a set of long twigs or sticks, a rubbish bin, tree or a drawing on the wall. Often, the wicket is by no means close to the official size, but it is used anyway. A wicket at the non-striker's end is generally a single stump if proper stumps are available and in the absence of larger objects may be just a hat or a shoe. Its main purpose is to mark the bowler's crease, but can be instrumental when there are two batters and one may be run out.

Garden cricket in the UK is considered by many to be the pinnacle event of social and sporting excellence in the summer period. Many games are paired with a barbecue which often has a carnival atmosphere.


Backyard cricket rules change constantly. Often they are made up on the spot. As always with informal games, it is the unspoken rules that are most important: these are usually that all participants should have a reasonable chance to play a part regardless of age, gender, or skill level, and that no-one should be injured. Typical examples of the less important but explicit rules for a particular game include:

  • Rooves or flats? - Often the toss is conducted by spinning a bat in the air which will either land face down (with the roof shaped back of the bat pointing up) or with the flat face pointing up. Making this choice correctly gives the captain making the call the choice of innings. Since a bat thrown randomly will land "rooves" with about a 70% frequency, most people will call "rooves" when given the choice. Knowing this, however, a canny thrower may tailor his or her throw to increase the odds of "flats". With practice, the probability of throwing a bat to come up "flats" can be greatly enhanced. Also known as "Mountains or Valleys?"
  • Bowling - There are 'normally' 6 balls to an over with a new bowler each over. However, for backyard cricketers it can often be very annoying for them to count their balls, so the rule of "two balls to go" is often used: what this means is that a bowler will bowl an unlimited over until somebody asks "how many balls left?", to which the answer is always two. Sometimes longer overs or no overs are used. The striker's (batsman) and non-striker's (bowler) ends do not change. Instead, if there are two batsmen, they swap ends at the end of each over.
  • Last ball pending soup - on the bowler's otherwise last ball of the over, the "last ball pending soup" rule can apply, where the bowler is granted an extra delivery every time he puts the batsman under a degree of discomfort, which is said to be placed in a soup due to the delivery. This may include such as an edge or a complete missed stroke.
  • No balls - would normally only be given if the ball is a grubber (strikes the pitch and rolls rather than bouncing). Random play may throw up other incidents which are inarguably a no ball though. The ball will be bowled again and depending on the day's rules, may score the batsman a run.
  • Wides - Have to be obvious. A wide may or may not be bowled again depending on local rules and may or may not score a run. It is not wide if the batsman swings at it unless it is out of his reach at the full extension of arm and bat, which is a wide as obvious as a barn.In some places, 3 continuous wides are counted as one run.
  • First ball rule - a player cannot be given out on the first ball he/she faces. This rule is generally applied to those with little cricketing skill.
  • No Slogging - When there is not enough fielders, this rule is used when, the batsman has to play defensive or a proper cricketing shot, (the pull and hook shot is considered as slogging.) If the batsman does slog, he will be judged out.
  • No Duck - a player cannot be given out without scoring.
  • Wicket Dispute - When there is a dispute over a wicket, (a good example being the run-out rule), it is very common that the bowler will believe a player is out, and the batsman will believe it is not out. If there is not a mutual umpire present, the decision is often made with a compromise, such as 5 runs off the batsman's score however continue batting. If no compromise is accepted by both parties, the next step is 'Last Man Standing'. Some people choose to use a 'majority rules' system before the 'Last Man Standing' system, however it is common that the bowling or batting team will have more players, and therefore the decision will always go their way, or if the numbers are equal, there will be no majority. The 'last man standing rule' means that the first team to leave the backyard or playing area (such as an oval or beach), automatically forfeits the wicket. If the batter leaves first, they are automatically out, if the bowler leaves first, the batter is not out. An alternative compromise often used is known as 'match stick cricket'. This involves the batsman having to play a certain number of deliveries, normally the next three, with his bat upside down. In other words, he has to try to hit the ball with the bat handle, conventionally and traditionally used for holding the bat. This often results in a wicket, normally by being bowled out, but skillful batsmen are still able to hit boundaries. Occasionally, disputes may be resolved by a free ball bowled at unprotected stumps, with a hit resulting in the batsman being given out.
  • 3 miss rule - once a player has failed to hit three consecutive deliveries they are out; this number can be adjusted depending on ability and number of players. Rare.
  • 3 miss, leave or defensive rule - a variation of the above rule, capturing leaves (wide balls not included, obviously), and defensive strokes. This rule is designed to encourage aggressive strokeplay.
  • Six and out rule - hitting the ball over the fence (or into the water, into the big hedge, or some other area where the ball may be difficult to retrieve) counts as six runs and out. If a game is being played where runs are not scored, this rule may still apply. A variant of this rule is hitting the ball inside or outside house(s) if playing outside or inside respectively. In addition, the batsman responsible for the ball being hit for six must retrieve the ball himself. This may result in the batsmen being allowed to continue batting if successful, or they may still be out, at the discretion of the other players. If a team hits a 'six and out' to win the game, the team wins and the batsman goes out, plus the six counts, whatever the set amount of wickets may be (even if the wicket was the teams' last).
  • Lost Ball - if a batsman hits the ball to an area where the fielders are unable to find it, the batsman may be called over to help in finding the lost ball if the fielders are unable to locate it. If the batsman is also unable to find the ball, he/she is out including the runs they made off the lost ball.
  • One hand, one bounce - a player is able to catch the batsman out with one hand as long as the ball has bounced only once, hence the name "one-hand, once bounce." A variation on this is that a player is out if caught one-handed after the ball has bounced off an obstacle (not the ground) such as a house, car, or window pane, etc. In Australia 'one hand, one bounce' can generally only be called if the fielder is holding a beer in one hand at the time. If playing in an enclosed area, such as in a driveway or in cricket nets, this rule can also be: One Hand Off the Net. Another variation counts "one hand, one bounce" as half a wicket, requiring two catches for a dismissal. This counteracts the ease of dismissal when playing on hard surfaces with a tennis ball. This rule was invented to make fielding easier while holding a drink.
  • Two Bounce Headbutt - A fielding player is able to headbutt the ball after it has bounced on the ground twice to dismiss the batsman
  • Two Bounce Kick-up - A fielding player is able to kick the ball and catch it on the full with one hand after it has bounced on the ground twice to dismiss the batsman
  • No LBW - the more complex and subtle rules of formal cricket (like the leg before wicket rule) are often ignored. This rule is often expanded to include no-balls and most wides (unless of course, the ball is unmistakably wide). This rule came about because of the lack of umpires in this form of the game. Indeed, the bowling and popping creases are hardly ever indicated. There is simply a general consensus to deliver the ball when at a certain area.
  • Fixed LBW - if LBW is being used, the ball must hit a specified area of the batsman, usually designated as below the knees while the batsman is standing in his/her crease and directly in front of the stumps for he/she to be out.
  • Tippy-go', Tippity, Tip-and-run, Tip-hit, Hit and run, Tipsy, Tipneys, One Tip or similar - if the batsman hits the ball he or she must run regardless of the distance or quality of the shot played. This is sometimes varied to two or three chances and the player must run before the second or third ball, respectively. These variant are called two tip and three tip respectively.
  • Tip-is-it, Batsman's fault or Tippers out - often employed when there are two batsmen and the above rule is in effect. Tip-is-it specifies that in the event of a runout the batsman who hit the ball is out, regardless of which player is found short of their crease. This helps prevent the non-striker being dismissed at fault of their batting player.
  • Any wicket / Electric Wickets - Fielders may run the batsman out by knocking over either wicket, irrespective of the end the batsman was running to.
  • Swapping of ball- A tactic often employed when the batsman at the crease is considered by the majority of the participating players to be of an irritating nature, rude, ugly or to possess any feature which the bowler dislikes. In this rule the bowler is entitled to change the ball used in play without the batsman's knowledge. The ball may be changed to a leather cricket ball, incredi-ball, another ball of the bowlers choice, or occasionally a piece of fruit. In this rule balls of a short length or full tosses above waist height are deemed legal.

Another variation on this rule is the ability of the bowler to at certain stages throughout the game bowl two balls in one hand at the batsman on strike. This tactic is usually employed under the same circumstances as the above ruling

  • Automatic Wickie, Electric wicket-keeper, or electronic wicket-keeper, automatic wicket-keeper, or auto-wiky - a rule which states that if a batsman "snicks", or edges, the ball so it goes to where a wicket-keeper might have been able to catch him out, then the batsman is out, regardless of the fact that he was not physically caught out. Also if the bowler is bowling spin or slow bowls then the automatic wickie can stump the batsman, the batsman will usually get one warning however. Electric/automatic wicket-keeper is often a feature of backyard games played in house driveways and against garage doors, where it is physically impossible for any player to take the fielding position of wicket-keeper. Of course, if there is a person playing at 'keeper, the electric/automatic wicket-keeper rule does not apply; an electric/automatic slip fieldsman might be called into play instead.
  • Electronic wickets or Electrics - a rule which states that if there is only one set of stumps, and one batsman, the batter may be run out at the end where the stumps are even if running to the end where there are no stumps. To be deemed safe, the batsman must call in, crease, or safe.
  • Safe - if there is only one batsman and he makes a single run, he/she must exclaim Safe!, Wicket!, Crease! or similar before walking back to the batting crease, or they may be run out. If the batsman wants to leave his crease at any time when not making a run, he/she must exclaim 'Wicket Leave' or 'Wicket' before he steps outside his/her crease.
  • Magic Fielders, similar to the automatic wicket keeper rule, magic fielders can range from a chair to a hose, cars to windows, and the rule states that any magic fielder that is hit on the full will be recorded as out.
  • Bowler gets the bull shit, If a bowler is hit into an area which is inhospitable, hard to field or of a large distance away from the playing field they are required to collect the ball. This rule however only applies when the ball is hit in a position which does not result in the batsman's dismissal. If the ball is hit in an illegal area (over the fence for example) and the batter is given out then it is his/her job to retrieve the ball. Also known as "Fetch your own shit", with adequate speed.
  • Tree Fielders, similar to the Magic Fielder rule, the bowler is allowed to nominate a set number of trees (or bushes) as fielders. If the ball hits the tree on the full, the batsman is out. There are variations on the rules, such as the tree's canopy only counting as a fielder. This sometimes goes by the name "Shrubbery Fielding", or occasionally "Tree-scothick".
  • Hit and Roll rule, Trap - a rule in which fielders who retrieves balls hit by the batsman are given the opportunity to get the batsman out by rolling the ball from that point towards the batsman's bat which is laid flat on the ground facing the fielder. If the ball rolls and hits the bat then the batsman is out and is replaced by that fielder. If the ball is only hit within a short distance, then instead of laying the bat down, the batsman swings the bat like a pendulum and the fielder targets the swinging bat. Another variant involving balls which are only hit over short distances is that the batsman holding his bat with the edge facing the fielder. The fielder aims to target this to get the batsman out as above.
  • Hit and Run rule - When the batsman hits or nicks the ball they are forced to run otherwise they are out, this will speed up the game if there are many players.
  • Peg - after the batsman has struck the ball they do not run. Once the fielder has the ball, they may throw it at the batsman's wicket. If the fielder hits the wicket, then the batsman is out and it is the fielder's turn to bat. Alternatively, if the batsman is caught or bowled then the fielder responsible bats next. Uncommon, bears more in common with Rounders.
  • Hit the Window - If the batsman's shot hits a fragile item such as a window pane or a car, they are often given out. However this rule does not normally apply if the ball has ricocheted off another item first.
  • House Rule - If the ball hits the house the batsman is out. Sometimes this is limited to the roof, or another area of the house, such as a garage door or a fence.
  • Creases - The bowling crease is generally the non-strikers wicket along a line straight out to either side. The batsman's crease may be marked by a stick or spare bat, but is generally made by dragging the bat across the line of the pitch at a guessed metre out from the stumps and however distance is large enough to be clearly seen.
  • Batter to bowler - not used much anymore but still an accepted form; a batsman who goes out bowls the remainder of the over.
  • Can't Bat then Bowl - If many players are playing, the batsman that just went out cannot bowl for at least one over after he goes out. Sometimes he is not allowed to bowl until everyone else has bowled depending on local rules
  • Maori Stumping (As used in the South Island of New Zealand)- When the bowler runs out the non-striking batsman at the bowlers end, when coming in to bowl. Often the batsman must be warned first by the bowler who must say "Maori stump warning" or whatever term is colloquially used.
  • Scoring - when used is an informal thing with people keeping count in their heads and the winner gets nothing more than prestige. Runs can be made by running the length of the pitch.

Sixes and Fours vary based on the surroundings but generally they are as follows: Fence on the bounce is 4, on the full is 6, over the fence is 6 and out. Far side of the road is 4, on the full is 6. If it goes too far down or over the road its six and out. The roof is 6 and out. Cars and caravans are out with no score. The house/shed is 4 on the bounce, 6 on the full. The windows though are out, no score. If the ball is lost in the bushes/scrub local rules apply. The batsman may keep running indefinitely, but more often a maximum number of runs would be agreed upon before he helps search, or he may join in the search immediately. A token four runs may be added. This is called 4 declared or simply 4D. Bushes/fences closer than the boundary line or 4D are sometimes declared as 2 declared or 2D

  • Catcher's in - The person who gets the batsman out will be the next to bat unless some players are missing out, in which case it will go to the person with the least chances at bat, or the youngest of same. Taking the catch counts as taking the wicket, the bowler gets no credit.
  • Batter's Revenge - When batsman out and replaced by the bowler, batsman gets one ball to bowl. Not always applicable when caught by a fielder.
  • Current - In the absence of two sets of stumps or objects of similar height and structure are total non availability (where batting stumps are drawn on walls doors etc.,.)the bowlers end has usually a stone,or any similar object(including sandals),to act as stumps.Since hitting it directly with a ball is nearly impossible,the fielder can just have contact with the stone,while catching the ball in order to run out a batsman.Usually the contact is with legs(like baseball).
  • Going out - catch on the full, run out (either end for one batsman games), bowled, one-hand one bounce, 6 and out, roof, car, window etc. is out, no 6. Spectators can catch you out.
  • Number of batters - really depends on how many players you have. Two players only happens if there are enough fielders.
  • Last man gets his tucker - The last batter for each side is allowed to bat without a partner so that no-one is left stranded and everyone gets a turn.
  • Bouncing on grass - where the pitch is a small patch of lawn, or area surrounded by a cement circle/rectangle/path/etc., the ball must bounce on the green (or similar area) first, or else can be given out. Also similarly when there are few players, the ball might have to go past a certain point before runs can be scored.
  • Third Umpire - In the event that there is a third umpire decision required a "toss" of the bat will occur and the batsman will make the call, if the call is successful then the batsman will remain "in" otherwise the batsman is "out".
  • Peg Leg - if the batsmen and fielding players cannot decide whether the batsman is out or not the bats may be asked to play peg-leg. This is when the batsmen must use the handle to hit the ball rather than the blade of the bat.
  • Roofs or Sheds - In a situation where the ball is hit on the roof or shed a fielder can claim the out by catching it with one hand of the roof.
  • Whoever Gets - Often the person who takes the wicket will get to then bat. This sometimes causes disruption in the event that a catch is taken and both the bowler and fielder involved will claim it's their turn to bat.
  • Bat for Bowl - A common rule in games where there are no teams, where after a batter is given out he is then allowed to become the bowler.
  • Joker - If there are even number of players, for instance, a total of 7 players are available, you cannot have equal teams, and one player has to be left out. This is compensated by declaring the extra player as 'Joker', who gets to bat for both the teams. A joker is usually not allowed to bowl, but has to field for both the teams. A joker is a much sought-after role in gully cricket as he gets to bat twice.
  • Win Declare - This is sometimes used in gully cricket, when a team knows they cannot win a match (either chase a target or defend one), the captain of the team awards the match to the opposing team. This is usually done to enhance the time to play extra matches. It is not always welcome since the opposing team does not always favor giving up their batting or bowling quota.

Within a given game, rules are often interpreted in varying ways, or added to as the game progresses. A younger child that benefits from the "first ball rule" but goes out to the second ball also might discover that there is now, by unspoken consensus, a "second ball rule" as well, and if necessary a "third ball rule".

The scoring system is sometimes modified, with rules such as "12 and Out" or "8 and Out" an event that occurs when a player hits the ball a great distance, possible over the road or into the ocean, depending on the location of the game. Sometimes, the "Aggregate Rule" is played, meaning that a player receives the runs from a boundary as well as any runs they claim during the chase and retrieval of the ball. This allows for scores such as fives and sixes (without getting out).

In some parts of the world, backyard cricket (and other similar games) is one of the very few truly child-like activities that modern adults may participate in without attracting social stigma, and one of the dwindling number of adult activities that are accessible to children.

In India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Nepal it is also known as galli cricket, which translates into street cricket (the word gully is the English variant adopted by British colonizers during the British Raj). Inner-city youths in large South Asian cities including Karachi, Mumbai, and Colombo enjoy gully cricket in their freetime and it is often played as an extremely competitive game with players often having raging emotions. It is played in a similar regard to outdoor half-court basketball in the United States and backyard rugby in Australia and New Zealand. Often, children improvise on specific rules and use objects found in the environment to serve as tools, such as trash cans and dumpsters for wicket stumps. One famous example of this is the electric-taped tennis ball which was originally improvised by children in the inner-city neighborhoods of Karachi as a means to make a tennis ball less bouncy and heavier to closely emulate a real cricket ball; the tape can also be used to create a seam on the ball. This method soon spread to other regions of the world.


  • Can't get out first ball - This tactic is commonly used if the rule of "you can't get out first ball" is in place. A batsman will take advantage of his inability to get out on the first ball by attempting to hit the ball as far as possible, often over the fence for six. This is done for two reasons.
  1. To tally extra runs without the possibility of getting out.
  2. To punish the person bowling as it is their duty to retrieve the ball

Another variation on this rule is if the first ball a batter faces is deemed as unreachable (Off the pitch for example) The bowler is then obliged to bowl another ball in which the batsman is unable to be dismissed from. This rule continues until the bowler bowls a ball considered legal

  • Snicket - A tactic employed by batters. Instead of hitting the ball towards the boundary or into open space, the batsman nicks the ball, thus sending it past the wickets. If there is no wicketkeeper, slips, or as in many backyard games, thick bushes, the batter can make several runs, while the bowler or the fielders run to retrieve it. This tactic is often banned by a disgruntled fielding team.
  • The Lost Ball Trick - A tactic employed by fielders. When the ball is hit into bushes, the fielder/s locate the ball, but rather than return it to the pitch, the fielder/s pretend to continue to search for the ball, thus coaxing the batter to go for another run. At this time, the fielder quickly returns the ball, and if properly executed causes the batter to be run out.
  • The Hide the Ball Trick - A tactic employed by fielders (at least 5 are required for). This tactic is similar to the "Lost Ball Trick". However, this tactic requires more fielders and is notably more spectacular, therefore is only used to dismiss batters who have been in for a long amount of time. When the ball is hit into bushes, the fielder(s) locate the ball, but rather than return it to the pitch, they pretend to continue to search for the ball, thus coaxing the batter to go for another run. After about 15 seconds of "unsuccessful" searching, several other fielders (including the wicketkeeper or bowler) go over to help, appearing to be annoyed. The initial searcher slips the ball to the bowler/wicketkeeper, who after another 10–15 seconds of "fruitless" searching return disdainfully to their positions near the wicket with the ball hidden in a pocket or behind their back. The player appears to be impatiently awaiting the discovery of the ball, until the batter goes for another run. At this time, the player "knocks of the bails" with the ball, thus ending the batsman's innings.
  • Bush Belting - A tactic employed by batsmen. If a thick, spiky, spiderweb infested or otherwise inhospitable bush is located near the pitch, the batter 'slogs' the ball into it, thus slowing the fielders.
  • Cheeky run or Bump and Run - In the absence of a wicketkeeper or silly point fielders, the batsman can 'blade' the ball by playing a defensive shot and take a cheeky single. This tactic is countered by the fielding team by disallowing single runs altogether, thus forcing the batsman into positive strokeplay to get runs.
  • Wet Ball Trick - The ability by the bowler to inconspicuously soak the ball (usually a tennis ball) in water, and bowl it to the batter without their knowledge. If executed correctly, this causes both the ball to bounce and skid off the surface faster, while also causing water to be sprayed into the batsman's face. Many a great wicket have been taken with this technique.
  • Guyanese Wicket - If using a wicketkeeper, the wicketkeeper can attempt to tip the wicket over with his foot or hand, giving the impression of the batsmen hitting the wicket.
  • Cheeky Keeper - sometimes, if a batsman is proving difficult to dismiss, the bowler may signal to the keeper to move the wickets slightly to the side. Then, the bowler will bowl toward the new wicket area. The batter may leave the ball, as it is wide, only to see that the ball clean-bowls them. This only works when real stumps hammered into the ground are not used.
  • Wet Towel - If the game is being played on concrete a towel can be soaked in water and spread over a difficult length on the pitch. If the ball hits the towel it will skid through faster and stay low which often proves extremely difficult for the batsmen.
  • Swing King - Wrapping one side of a tennis ball in electrical tape will cause the ball to swing in the air if bowled correctly. Holding the ball straight up and down with fingers placed along the line of the seam between the taped and natural side will create swing if bowled at a medium fast pace. The ball will swing in the direction the tape is facing. In-swing to hit the stumps or out-swing to find the edge.

EBBO Cricket

Play on an actual EBBO can be achieved either by using the flat strip of hard-packed EB along the surf line as the pitch, or by only "bowling" gentle full tosses to avoid the problem of the ball not bouncing off loose sand. If there are no true stumps available a bin, deckchair, boogie board or cool box may be used.

In beach cricket the creases and the boundary are normally drawn in the sand in a line which extends well past the side of the agreed pitch to prevent them becoming obliterated in the first over. The batsmen will frequently redraw the line. Sometimes, play is shifted along the beach to a new pitch as the packed sand of the original pitch is turned up, thus reducing the standard of or even completely disabling bowling.

The tide plays a big part in the standard of the pitch in beach cricket. During low tide, the pitch tends to be on the semi-wet sand, and is deemed superior than cricket played in high tide (when the pitch is on dryer, looser sand). In particularly long matches, the play will shift up and down the beach depending on the tide.


  • Roger Caillois' Man, Play and Games (University of Illinois Press, 2001, ISBN 0-252-07033-X.)

See also

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